Belfast Telegraph

We know what happened in Kincora boys' home and we want the files open, insists victim

Excuses: Ron Graham
Excuses: Ron Graham
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

A man who was abused at a notorious boys' home in east Belfast has said the victims have every right to see secret files on Kincora rather than endure "the hell of not knowing" what's in them.

Ron Graham (61) was speaking after this newspaper revealed that documents linked to the child sex abuse scandal will remain locked away in Northern Ireland's official archive for decades to come.

At least 19 files directly related to the home are "closed" to the public, and in one case the order remains in place until 2085 at the earliest.

Around a dozen more of the files are closed - either fully or partially - until the mid-2060s and beyond.

The department responsible for the records said they contained "sensitive personal data" and couldn't be opened in order to protect victims' personal details and comply with data protection legislation.

But that's an "excuse" Mr Graham last night said he "flatly rejects".

"Of course it's sensitive material - we're the victims, we lived through this - but we're entitled to see those files," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

Claims have persisted that senior politicians, civil servants and businessmen were complicit in a paedophile ring that operated at the home in the 1970s and that the security services were aware of it.

Mr Graham spent almost a year at the infamous boys' home after being taken into care when his teachers realised his father had been beating him. But what happened to him in Kincora turned out to be even worse.

Having given evidence at the trial of paedophile William McGrath, a former housemaster at Kincora who was subsequently jailed for four years, Mr Graham said "at the very least" he is "entitled to see the files" after all this time.

"Seeing what's in these files could no be worse than what I or anyone else lived through in Kincora," he said.

"What McGrath did to me was unspeakable.

"I still have mental health problems because of it. He's dead now but I'm still living through the hell of not knowing what's in those secret documents.

"Questions have to be asked about why it went on for so long, and who covered it up. I think these files would open up an awful lot of history."

He added: "Making them public won't upset Kincora victims. Every victim I've talked to has said they want to see the files. For the last two days it's all we've been talking about."

The Kincora scandal shocked Northern Ireland to its core in 1980 when it emerged that at least 29 boys were sexually abused at the care home.

Three senior staff members - McGrath, Joseph Mains and William Semple - were jailed in 1981 for the abuse.

Mr Graham, a member of the group Savia (Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse), said he's been campaigning "for nearly 10 years now" but he revealed that up until recently he was unaware of the actual number of files in existence.

"We've always tried to get the files, we've known about them - but this is the first time we've known how many files there are," he said.

"They say they're protecting the victims by not making the files public, but that's nonsense. We know better than anyone what happened in there. We want the files open. We want to see what they say.

"I don't see any reason to keep them closed. At the very least they should let a judge decide because this is about us, the victims, and we have every right to see them."

Two private inquiries instigated by the then Secretary of State Jim Prior failed to provide adequate answers for victims, nor did a report published in 2017 by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart, as part of a public inquiry into historical sex abuse in Northern Ireland.

But Bangor-based Mr Graham said that, having been let down countless times in the past, he will now be pursuing the matter in the near future with Secretary of State Justin Smith.

"I won't rest until I get proper answers," he said.

"All we want is closure so that we can move on.

"We didn't get it in the Hart report or in the previous inquiries so I'll be speaking to Mr Smith when I meet him with Savia in two weeks' time and I'll be asking for his help."

Solicitor Claire McKeegan from Phoenix Law, who represents the majority of the survivors of Kincora, including Mr Graham, said that with secrecy comes suspicion.

"Kincora has for decades been surrounded in controversy and allegations of the most grave and alarming nature," she said.

"The deliberate suppression of documents by the Government which could shed light on what went on only adds to the ongoing suspicions long held by survivors about who knew what and when."

Doug Beattie called for immediate action, saying the Kincora files "should be open for scrutiny now".

The Ulster Unionist MLA added: "There should be no hiding place for those who abused children, or anyone else, regardless of who they are."

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